Child Protection


UNICEF in action: Strategy & priorities

Birth registration

Violence against children

Justice for children

Child labour and commercial sexual exploitation

Children on the move

Protection and care for children affected by HIV/AIDS

Results for children


Results for children

© UNICEF/NYHQ2006-0939/Pirozzi
Esnaro Kunika sits with her grandchildren in Mzuzu town, Malawi. The 70-year-old grandmother provides for 10 of her grandchildren who were orphaned by AIDS.

In 1990, just one year after the UN General Assembly adopted the CRC, the then Organisation of African Unity which later became the African Union brought the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child into being.

Like the CRC, the African Charter is a comprehensive instrument that defines universal principles and norms underpinning the status of children. Critically, it recognises children’s unique and privileged place in African society, and children’s need of protection and special care in the specific African context. The African Charter supplements the CRC with additional issues related to the social, cultural and economic realities in this part of the world, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C). The document expressly states that the Charter stands higher than any custom or tradition, or cultural or religious practice.

To date, the African Charter has been ratified by 43 of the 53 African countries. Most of the 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have ratified the Charter, with the exception of Somalia and Zambia – which have signed but are yet to ratify.

Justice for children

Throughout the region, countries have begun processes to bring their legislation in line with the standards of the CRC, the African Charter and other international child protection frameworks. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland have drafted comprehensive Children’s Acts and Tanzania and Botswana enacted their own Children’s Acts in 2009. Burundi and Ethiopia have revised their penal codes to make them consistent with international standards for children, while Malawi has developed a position paper to bring the national constitution into line with the CRC.

Law enforcement bodies are being reformed and trained to respond adequately to the needs of children who have become victims of crime and of juvenile offenders. Criminal justice systems are becoming more child-friendly with the introduction of child-friendly courts in Malawi and Mozambique, separate holding facilities for children in police stations in Kenya and specialised legal aid services in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Somaliland and Somalia.

Birth registration

Considerable progress has also been made in increasing access to birth registration for children in Eastern and Southern Africa, with millions of children being registered over recent years. In Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Eritrea, Tanzania and Kenya, almost 1.7 million children were registered in 2009 alone. Other countries, such as Uganda, Malawi, Botswana and Angola are simplifying application processes for birth certificates and removing administrative fees. South Africa, Swaziland and Namibia are working towards ensuring children born in hard-to-reach areas or marginalized groups have access to birth registration services through outreach programmes.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-2288/LeMoyne
A woman holds her sleeping baby and the child’s newly issued birth certificate in Mozambique.

Violence, social and gender norms

Many of the region’s governments are strengthening their legal frameworks to protect women and children from sexual violence. Countries such as Madagascar, South Africa and Zimbabwe have passed laws to address sexual offences, while other countries, including Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, among others, are tackling violence against women and children as part of their national development strategies. Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda have initiated processes to ban female genital mutilation.

Child labour and sexual exploitation

UNICEF collaborates with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to combat child labour.  In Eastern and Southern Africa, the ILO-IPEC partnership includes a programme in Tanzania aimed at restoring children’s education chances through child-friendly and gender-sensitive methodologies. In Uganda an increased number of children have been withdrawn from exploitation and hazardous labour through the provision of other alternatives, including support to return to their communities of origin.



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